Re: IDENTITY-What it means to be 'me'

From: Mark Walker (
Date: Mon Dec 10 2001 - 21:59:01 MST

----- Original Message -----
From: "Emlyn O'regan" <>
To: <>

>. If I
> could choose between
> 2 more years of Emlyn and 0 years of Emlyn',
> or
> 0 more years of Emlyn and 1000 years of Emlyn',
> I would choose the latter, most certainly. But not for the right
> reasons! Particularly, I'd be doing it for "the wife and kids". To me,
> it would not be life extension, it would actually be a huge personal
> sacrifice. I'd have to do it in secret, too, because it'd only
> be fair on my family if they never knew.
Actually, your family has been in contact. They say that they are quite
alright with it and
have actually requested a few changes in the duplicate Emlyn. ;)
> Which of the following would you (as a functionalist) do. Which would you
> as yourself? Why?
> 1 - Live out your 3 score & 10.
> 2 - Be replaced** tomorrow by your exact (enough) replica, who will live
> 1000 years.
> 3 - Be replaced** tomorrow by an exact (enough) replica of person X, who
> will live 1000 years.
Well, depending on how the details are filled in here, I think I can imagine
adopting anyone of these. There might be occasions where I might adopt (3),
for example, even though I would not consider this a case of continuity of
identity. Ethical considerations might compel one to sacrifice oneself for
another. With (2) I am not sure how to interpret 'exact enough'. Not just
any good looking, witty, and brilliant individual will be an exact enough
replica of me to ensure that I will think there is a continuity of
So where do we disagree? Generally, personal identity is considered to be a
special case of identity, which put formally is something like A=A. Of
in its formal mode it tells us almost nothing. A slightly more helpful
suggestion is that a necessary condition for the continuity of identity of A
is that all purported instances of A must share the same necessary
properties. Of course in the present case this does not help us much since
now our disagreement resolves to which properties are necessary for me to be
me, or you to be you. That is, we disagree whether it is an essential
property of an individual that the right sort of continuity obtains for
one's present microphysical constitution. On my view, the continuity of my
present microphysical structure is only a contingent property of my
identity, e.g., I could be moved to a different substratum and survive. The
continuity of my beliefs, desires, projects, and the 'narrative of my life'
seems so much more important than worrying about what platform this takes
place on--this set of molecules or that set of molecules. On the other hand,
I am nominalist enough to think that there is not a lot in the
contingent/necessary property distinction.

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